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Are Your Feelings Always a Reliable Guide?

By Jamie Smart on Wednesday April 8th, 2020

Where Do You Believe Your Feelings are Coming from?

All you have to know is everything is created from thought, you don’t have to know anything else. – Sydney Banks

In this article, you’re going to discover a discriminator that will help clear up the common misunderstanding behind using feelings as a way to make decisions (hint: not recommended). In the process, it’s going to take a lot off your mind, and have you taking action where you may have been stuck until now.

Clearing Up a Misunderstanding

Have you ever been confused about whether or not to follow your feelings, especially when you’re in a challenging situation or have a big decision to make? If so, you’re not alone. 

In over twenty years as an executive coach, workshop leader and trainer of coaches, I’ve found that one of the biggest areas of confusion I see when people start exploring the principles behind how the mind works is the area of feelings and emotionality. 

Have you ever been told you should “do what feels right”, or “trust your gut” or “wait until you feel inspired”? As a result of this well-meaning but ambiguous advice, people sometimes get paralyzed while waiting for “the right feeling” to come. Or they dive into analysis of their feelings, trying to discern what their feelings are telling them to do so they can use them as a basis for decision-making. In the worst cases, it can end up boiling down to a kind of “If it feels good, do it – if it feels bad, don’t” philosophy which can lead to passivity and/or victimhood.

Your Feelings are Expert at One Thing Only

Your feelings are an incredibly precise and accurate gauge or signal. They’re an aspect of your neurophysiology that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, to help you live, thrive and survive here on planet Earth. Your body has countless feedback loops and signaling systems to govern things as diverse as body temperature, hydration and pH level. Just as the fuel gauge and speedometer in your car give you precise feedback about fuel level and speed respectively, your internal ‘gauges’ give you feedback on specific and interconnected rhythms and systems that are designed to keep you running at your optimum.

In 1852, pioneering neuroscientist Hermann Helmholtz realized something extraordinary. As Chris Frith recounts in his book, Making Up The Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World:

“Helmholtz realized that various processes must be occurring in the brain before a representation of an object in the outside world appears in the mind. He proposed that perception of the world was not direct, but depended on ‘unconscious inferences’.”

“…” People sometimes get paralyzed while waiting for “the right feeling” to come. Image: Anthony Tran

In this article, we’ll be referring to the mind’s power to create a representation of the outside world as ‘the principle of Thought’.

The one thing your feelings are a reflection of is your Thought-generated perceptual reality in this moment. 

Your car’s speedometer is an expert on one thing and one thing alone: the speed at which the wheels are turning. It can’t tell you anything about your car’s fuel level, its RPMs or the engine temperature. Your speedometer doesn’t know anything about those things. Your feelings are an expert on one thing and one thing alone: The formless power of Thought taking form in this moment.

The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body. – Bruce Lipton

What Are Your Feelings Really Telling You?

Your feelings can’t tell you anything about your past, your future, what other people think of you or what you’re like as a person. Our feelings don’t know anything about those things. When we innocently believe our feelings are telling us about these things, we can get into trouble. And we do: we all sometimes get tricked into believing our feelings are telling us about something ‘other’ than Thought in the moment. We believe our feelings are letting us know about future events or past experiences. We believe they’re letting us know about our progress or our prospects, our relationships or our achievements. We believe they’re letting us know about future glories or indignities, about the path we’ve trodden or the road ahead.

This is what I call the ‘outside-in illusion’; the mistaken belief that we’re feeling something other than the principle of Thought taking form, moment to moment in our consciousness. By the way, if you struggle with the phrase ‘your feelings are a reflection of the principle of Thought taking form in the moment’, here are some other ways of saying the same thing:

– You’re living in the experience of the energy behind life taking form in the moment…
– You’re living in the intelligent energy of all things creating your perceptual reality in the moment…
– You’re living in the experience of God creating breathing life into this moment…

Welcome Back to the Reality You’re Optimized For

We all fall into the outside-in illusion from time to time. When we do, our heads fill up with contaminated, outside-in thinking as we make mental to-do lists and try to strategize our way forward. But the outside-in illusion is just that; an illusion. It doesn’t really exist. And we haven’t evolved to thrive in a world that doesn’t exist; we’ve evolved to live, thrive and survive in the reality of the present moment; the world of our real-time sensory experience. And the moment we fall out of the outside-in misunderstanding, reality is exactly where we land. And when we fall out of our contaminated thinking and into reality, we find that we know what to do, and what not to do. This is sometimes called “common sense” or “wisdom”. And it’s the most natural thing in the world. 

“…” When we come back into reality, we find that we know what to do. Image: Gaelle Marcel

So here’s a question you might find useful: Where do you believe your feelings are coming from?

If it genuinely seems like they’re coming from anywhere other than the ebb and flow of Thought in this moment, you’ve been tricked into believing in a world that doesn’t exist. And the second you wake up to that, even as a possibility, you’re on your way back to your reality. So if you’re not using feelings as the primary guide when making decisions, how do you know what to do? Here’s the thing: you actually make thousands of decisions each day, without even thinking about them consciously. Most of the time, your decisions are taken effortlessly as you respond to the moment. The times when that doesn’t happen is when we’re caught up in the outside-in misunderstanding. And the moment we wake up from that misunderstanding, we know what to do.

The moment you insightfully realize that you’re living in the feeling of Thought in the moment, and not what you’ve been thinking about, you’ll wake up in the here and now. And you’re optimized for the here and now. This is where you thrive. Right here. Right now. Welcome.

~

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” Daniel Goleman

What do you feel and think about this article? Perhaps it’s about balance? Perhaps you govern your life by intuition … is that the same as a gut feeling? What about psychic intuition – where might that come into play? We love feeling into and processing new concepts and theories and we love sharing them with you. And what we love more is your feedback in the comments below.

Much love Team Uplift

~

Jamie Smart is a Sunday Times bestselling author, speaker and coach. He shows individuals and organizations the unexpected keys to clarity; the ultimate leverage point for creating more time, better decisions and meaningful results. He’s passionate about helping individuals and businesses to deepen their understanding of the principles behind clarity, and to create the results that matter to them. In addition to working with a handful of coaching clients and leading selected corporate programs, Jamie runs professional development workshops for business leaders, trainers, coaches and consultants. 

 

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21 Responses to Are Your Feelings Always a Reliable Guide?

  1. What’s more is that emotions and feelings are actually two different things. We often see these lumped together. Emotions are more fight or flight limbic system reactions where feelings come more from the frontal lobe and is our overall long term attitude towards life. Feelings can be cultivated to create an overall attitude where as emotions are typically fleeting experiences that come and go fairly intensely and quickly. Discerning the two and leaving analytical mind aside we can experience the depth of soul consciousness and step into reality from there.

  2. Wow, Jamie!
    My oh my!
    you ask for a response, so here goes…: (it is long!):
    An article about feelings written from the head! Now how is that going to Work!? 🤔 How is that going to UNDERSTAND the LIVING world of emotions or feelings!? At least no ‘science’ was brought into this!
    (Before I proceeed, I just wanna say that -as a Humanistic-Spirtual being -amongst other things, I love and value thought and thinking -it has it beautiful place in our wholeness; as does Science in our world, -this real true, honest + humble intricate disciplne…And the scientific-attitude in life, especially 🙂
    But…
    How do I start?
    Perhaps you should watch an episode of BBC’s “Call the midwife”, and come back to this essay immediately afterwards and revise one or two key points? Or maybe re-write it again?
    I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but you ask for responses to it (-including what ‘intuition’ is):
    Let me get that out of the way first: Well, I cannot put that into words, directly or essentially: it is a movement of a certain kind of intelligence, that knows or perceives directly, in one moment, as one ‘whole’, rather than via logic – but that’s what it is like, not what it IS – that’s why I say it cannot be put into words, not the intimate phenomenon we all have. I can try, as Jung or others have, but no one can show another their own experiencing, and this is far more intimate than logic, which can be objectified to another in simple steps…
    And yet it is probably my most ‘dominant’ function (out of Jung’s 4 ‘intelligences’ -sensing, feeling, thinking, intuiting); though I would add how it is crucial to have ALL FOUR in enough balance – to live a fulfilling life for yourself and to understand others.
    To respond to your next sub-questions about it: for me, ‘Intuition’ can be sensory, of the body -I somehow mentally taste cucumber, (>I think my body is requiring it – thought from that intuitive sense). Or I may feel very uneasy going past a crtain person; something is knowing something, but that is not evident fromtheir mere appearance or presence. For me, this has been super-accurate, when it’s occurred -but like so many in the West, I don’t readily believe them ENOUGH! 🙁
    It can be of the ‘lower’ emotions about survival or selfish concerns; about our deep heart feelings; about self-knowledge or awareness of other people (so often other -more positive ‘hunches’ are shown to be right, if we have the courage to voice them or respect them). And of course, there is the intuition of our Spiritual Reality, wherein Silence Is, where we can only navigate via intuition, it being a wordless realm! Pure Self-evidence, without a secondary-world representing it!…
    And yes, psychic phenomena I would include in intuition, but it is not normally ‘psychic’ for me; that it maybe amounts to 1 or 2 % of it, although if you’re in an Aborigine tribe, maybe 40-50%? 🙂

    But in response to this piece on feelings: Let me just suggest how two of your chunks I am to copy here, from the point-of-view of the world of feeling itself, are self-evidently incorrect -for me, and I suspect, for many others!
    Firstly:
    ‘Your feelings can’t tell you anything about your past, your future, what other people think of you or what you’re like as a person. Our feelings don’t know anything about those things ‘
    On the contrary, ONLY the Heart knows me intimately, and knows my Goodness. Now, clever-people but without much heart in their consciousness, will de-construct the word ‘good’ and maybe question whether it exists at all… But for me, and countless others, I am confident that this is just pretty-much universal: the heart tells me if I am a good person in essence. Although self-awareness is tricky and we can really question these notions when we’re being really honest to ourselves: e.g. what is ultimately stronger, this kind side, or the selfish side, but it is my feeling which humbly tells me the truth here, with a veracity far deeper than head-intelligence can ever venture. (And it is also part of healthy-goodness to be selfish to some extent in life!)
    So for me, ‘goodness’ is the same place from where ‘conscience’ comes from – the part that would never want to do anything deliberately hurtful or cruel to another (even if other parts may have the momentary impulse to; and even if we have all sort of shadowey and selfish sides to our being, -naturally, being apes…)
    Secondly, My feelings – and the intuitive intelligence related to them, can inform me of my past most reliably. Yes, memory -in both a cognitive sense and emotional sense, can distort facts and details – merging, for example, something that happened in 1978 with something that occurred in 1983, kind of collapsing such details of reality together; we all know this tendency at least, in ourselves and in friends…
    However, my feeling can also sometime re-experience how the past WAS for me, and plays the music of my life then. And we all know how a piece of music or a smell can intimately and IMMEDIATELY takes us back to where we were ‘at’ emotionally, at a certain ‘place/time’ in our lives…: It can say so much sometimes, and even re-create a whole experience from the past.
    ~Moreover(-and there is no way to prove this to myself -let alone another, But), I feel it CAN inform me about my own future occasionally – often repeating the information when we are losing some faith or evidence about something important to us. Not about some detail -but rather a feeling-centred intuition that creates Faith and confidence. I admit this is more subjectively-inclusive to the individual, but it gives the intelligence a faith (rather than hope – which to me has no KNOWLEDGE to it, that one is going to be very alright. Such may be labelled intuition, but for me it has such a Feeling component to it!

    Finally, it takes a certain emotional intelligence to be able to know what people really think about you, what their regard or attitude is towards you is. Only by entering into another’s shoes and situation, using all our powers of imagination and empathy, can we get to know another person. I suggest this is as ’emotional’ as it is cognitive intelligence; maybe it is a integration of both into a kind of ‘psychological wisdom’.
    But about self-knowledge, I find Gurdjieff most poignant and knowing here, where on eis truly interested in spiritual growth, saying how there is certain self-knowledge that is possible only through feeling, without which a man (aka any human) cannot progress to a higher level of being. This has been my experience and it is very subte, and self-intimate.

    The Second excerpt I want to paste:
    “If it genuinely seems like they’re coming from anywhere other than the ebb and flow of Thought in this moment, you’ve been tricked into believing in a world that doesn’t exist ”
    For me, and definitions are so important here: thought is NEVER IN the moment; rather it is always a ‘dancing’ AWAY FROM the moment (which is not a problem, but just its nature). Even if certain practical thoughts are necessary and relevant to the moment: for instance, – ‘it is cold, I will go inside and get a coat’. ‘There is a poisonous snake. Just try to keep still and let it pass’… , it is still away from the experiencing moment of reality, although closer than most thinking!
    Other than that, for me anyway, thought is a dance, a spider’s web of meaning REPRESENTING reality rather than being reality itself.
    It does not inform reality itself in the instant, whereas our feelings – their essence at least (before the mind or ‘ego’ gets hold of them) like senations in the body, are in the moment, the ache in my throat, dawning as it does, if I am moved by a film, is in the moment… The sudden anger that may arise if I see my child being bullied (anger as in passionate love/care and need to protect in this case), etc. its heart, is also very much in the ‘now’
    Now to turn to it in a much more personal way, if I may:
    Because I have had a severe trauma in my early life (when I was 2-and-a-half years old!) that turned my reality upside down, or at least ARRESTED my development as a down-here ordinary-child, I became dreamily cerebral (as a way to avoid the horrible feelings I still had) by the age of 5, and had a love of music -one link to emotions, and due to my intra-psychic independence that I had to have perhaps, I had a couple of profound and mystical experiences at that age!

    Anyway, I survived and was myself to some extent, but by the age of 27, knowing abut this hidden trauma, I wondered what was the best approach to it would be… And reasoning along the (I think quite correct) notion that the trauma was/will be known by body and feelings, -and not the intellect -which sort of developed after that young age, I decided to focus on my feelings – to have the courage to realy experience what is there; and to care for myself and them in the process.
    SO this is what I created and how it is – and -from whose vantage-point your essay seems like an exercise in by-passing the reality of human-feeling, the LIFE of them for me, in what I have discovered about the experience of feeling itself:- that I might be in-my-thinking, and unbeknown to me, at a deeper or different level, there are these feeling REALITIES that are ALIVE!
    What I do is take myself away for an hour -if I can have that time… Here, I have complete solitude, (-no interruptions at all!) so it’s a highly Safe Space for me, myself and I just to be, and to -specifically, to find out what I am really feeling and to care about the real being/creature who is having these feelings…
    It require bravery, intent/determination, the capacity to care and see myself honestly in the moment;- & some internal, creative resources that I can use; time and patience…
    But the ‘dividends’ for our being are / can be incredible, my mind is clearer, there is greater sanity, clarity, inner ‘aliveness’ and ‘space’…; better balance (our balance!), confidence, sense of reality, community — as well as our true-individuality; etc’s. And there are more even greater integrations that can take place
    The false-ego is much weaker -even phased out altogether for a time maybe; whereas the ‘legitimate’ ego (or ‘selfhood’ one needs to function in this world) gets stronger…
    Yes, it is -or can be that good! But only when I do it for deeper, sacred, pure reasons like really wanting to know what I am feeling deep-down; and really want to take care of that which is alive and precious and important in me!
    It is a real medium of self-actualisation done rightly…
    I would like to teach the world to do this, but, alas, so many are still chasing the next ego-dream.
    So this is what, I feel, gives me authority to respond about feelings. I would not describe myself as over-emotional in general (indeed, I have been described as ‘cerebral’ by some people/family;) but I know I am sensitive and also have strong passions…

    And I was expecting something so very different and honest-to-our-reality than what I read! Especially when I saw the picture of the eye, I knew it would be sceptical about trusting-feelings, but not by-passing the expeiencing of them!
    But what can one expect from an essay? Well, something like mine…? I am sure I will write abiut them in an essay I will poublish online…
    Finally, just as an intellectual point, when we have cognition or perception, we have feeling; surely, they are a unitary, connected process. So perception in a newborn child of LACK is immediately one with the feeling of Distress at the same time (I believe this is how it is for infants, anyway – i.e. , not one and then the other, like would happen in a 5 year-old operating in ‘time’…
    So for me it is not thought that creates feeling but they are two sides of the same coin of Perception!
    Wow, that was a loooong response. I hope you appreciate it 🙂 -in some way or other!

  3. Thank you Jamie. I enjoyed revisiting this topic again.
    We’ve all been tricked into believing that are feelings tell us something of our situation….
    Debating this topic with a client who believes his feelings/instinct directs his first impression of people he meets.

    • It is a controversial topic Anna, but it’s always good to question things to figure out what is true for each of us. We hope it has evoked healthy reflection and conversation between you and your client. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Blessings,
      Team UPLIFT

  4. I’ll just qualify that comment, with the fact that I have certainly impacted outcomes and made changes, by taking charge of my thought processes. So I do subscribe to the theory to a certain degree. However I believe I ‘influenced’ reality, to a degree, which is different. I see my thoughts, as being only one, of various forces at play.

  5. I agree with Brett. I think this subject needs more depth and exploration.

    In the spirit of feedback as requested above..

    ‘Thought creates your reality’ articles are everywhere, it’s the buzz phrase for the past ten years or so.

    Do thoughts really come first? Does a child think before they feel.

    Elsewhere, I’ve read so many articles saying you ‘just need to change your perception’ of what’s happening in order to feel better. But what if your perception is bang on, your distress appropriate? If you focus on changing your thoughts, you go into denial and miss possibly life saving information.

    And if thoughts come first, well a person doesn’t pluck them out of the nothingness. Perhaps thoughts and feelings exist simultaneously. Maybe a feeling creates a thought.

    I know it’s supposed to be empowering. But I think this ‘thoughts creates reality’ needs fresh angles and fresh perspectives and experiential examples.

    • These are very valid points Nia, it’s always good to question what we read and hear. What’s true for one is not always true for another. Thank you for sharing and for reading 🙂

      Blessings,
      Team UPLIFT

    • …and in between they’re thinking, “This is OK!”… just being, watching, and eventually they think, “I want to walk like they are, how can I do that?”… and they figure it out! At 12 months old! 🙂 We adults can have the same experience when we realise we can dismiss unhelpful feelings because they’re coming from subconscious, repetitive, habital Thought… If you’re in actual danger, you’ll be moving before you know it!

  6. I love this article. Jamie Smart’s writing has helped me immeasurably. It feels especially important at this moment as we cross over from perhaps an older way of relating and transition into higher and higher realms of consciousness as a collective.

  7. I feel like this is a superficial treatment of a complex probelm. It’s true that “now” is where it’s at but not true that your feelings cannot tell you something about your past. Neural netowrks that fire which cause you to have feelings exist. That’s a real thing. Is that a “thought?”. And he dosen’t broach what could be the biggest problem. It’s not so much we have feelings or thoughts that are issue, as it is we get identified with them. We believe we are them. Learning otherwise is crucial to being human.

  8. I agree, thoughts create our reality. When it comes to decisions I find synchronicities in life a quite reliable guide of what to do. Making decisions was always the most difficult thing for me until I read a book by Michael Singer “The Surrender Experiment”. Since then I say yes to what comes into my life and watch out for synchronicities as confirmation. This gives me often the sound feeling of being on the right track, and all is perfect!

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